The Toronto Blue Jays are coming off of a 4 game series split after going down 0-2 against the New York Yankees. It was a fun series filled with ups and downs courtesy of good bullpen pitching and Justin Smoak’s power bat.
The Blue Jays now open up a 3 game series against the Chicago White Sox with Jaime Garcia making his Blue Jays debut to round out the first trip through the rotation.
Many may be unfamiliar with Jaime Garcia, especially considering the vast majority of his career was spent in the National League with the St. Louis Cardinals before a 3 team stop in 2017 with the Atlanta Braves, a brief stint with the Minnesota Twins, and a playoff run with the New York Yankees. Garcia has never faced the White Sox in his career and will do so for the first time tonight.
Garcia was signed right before Spring Training to be the 5th man in the Blue Jays rotation and you should instantly expect more stability from the 5th spot compared to Francisco Liriano a season ago. Of course, Garcia needs to stay healthy, which is something he’s largely been unable to go through his career, but when healthy, he can be quite effective.
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Jaime Garcia is an extreme groundball pitcher with a 56.2% GB rate through his entire career. He can throw all of his pitches effectively and mixes speeds well. His arsenal is quite vast with a fastball, a sinking fastball, cut fastball, changeup, and slider. He can touch about 92 MPH with his fastball, but his average MPH in 2017 was 90.7%.
Earlier in his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, Garcia showed an ability to be a solid mid-rotation arm with flashes of the ability to be as good as a 2. His fWAR over three seasons in his prime with the Cardinals was 2.7 in 2010, 3.4 in 2011, and 2.8 in 2012. In each of the past 3 seasons where he’s made at least 20 starts, he posted fWAR totals of 2.8, 1.2, and 2.1.
What hurt Garcia in 2017 was an inability to get the ball down in the zone and normally when he doesn’t, balls leave the yard as he doesn’t overpower hitters. In 2016, his HR/9 was an ugly 1.36 but followed that up with a much more respectable 1.03 HR/9. In the AL East, it will be imperative for Garcia to keep the ball down and keep rolling up groundballs.
The Blue Jays defense behind Garcia needs to be good, much like it does with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. The defense behind Garcia will be key to his success in 2018, and the Blue Jays defense early this year has proven to be more than fine. We shall see if that continues, especially with Aledmys Diaz taking the majority of reps at shortstop for likely a large portion of the first half of 2018.
What should you expect from Jaime Garcia before his Blue Jays debut for the 2018 season? If he’s healthy, he will be quite reliable. He will be much more reliable than Francisco Liriano. If he’s keeping the ball down, rolling up groundballs, and keeping the ball in the yard, Garcia will be a fine 5th starter in 2018 for the Toronto Blue Jays.